how to fly in your apartment

this is an authoritative step-by-step guide to taking flight at home. scoffers and skeptics are welcomed and encouraged to either attempt another method or develop their own, but are hereby advised that the results could be disastrous.

man has always wanted to fly, just like fighter jets.
photo: mike johnson
down through the centuries, man has always started all his essays with "down through the centuries..." it's downright unavoidable. oh, and we humans have always wanted to take flight. like birds, but not ostriches (or dodos).

yet flight is something that people in movies do all the time, and as a consequence, most people think you need a big budget and superstar status to go soaring about.

when andrew and i found that this can be done at home for less than you think, i endeavored to share our secrets with you, dear reader. 
i want you to fly. you're welcome.

step 1:  constructing a flight plan
every good pilot needs an effective flightplan. it can be as simplistic and fun as "let's fly," or as complicated and boring as "let's not fly." you decide. you're the pilot. it is here that i want to caution the reader not to attempt their first flight over shark-infested waters. if you feed them, the sharks just keep coming back. they'll start to think they live there, and  no one wants that (except maybe sharks).

step 2: takeoff
you will need a few friends for this. sit on the ground with your knees bunched up in front of you. count to three. on three, jump into the air and have your friends simultaneously yank you forward, by pulling on your arms. this should give you enough thrust to begin hurdling through the air.
ancient cave painting of man in flight.
step 3: landing
this is the tricky part. as we soon discovered, man can only sustain flight for about two seconds. we tried all kinds of landing strategies, including "rolling out of it" and "not hitting the wall." i personally want to extend the liberty of selecting a landing method to the reader. good luck.

step 4: clear all obstacles out of your way
on second thought, maybe this should have been step two. clearing the runway is an important part of not dying or breaking your bones. depending on which room you try this in, you may want to relocate your coffee table, chairs, refrigerator, microwave oven and/or your collection of antique spears (classy). you won't want to be landing on those. flight with a spear in your hand, however, has proven to be the most awesome activity know to man.

well, there you have it: a bonafide method for in-apartment soarings. happy landing! oh, and check out the playlist u cn fly for a sweet soundtrack to your flying adventure.

andrew and nathan know were its at.


we pseudo-rationalists

this is a continuation of an earlier post about nietzche's "the antichrist."

nietzsche and i have something in common: we both used to think we were rationalists. we were attempting to convince the world of our convictions and conclusions, ignoring that we had both taken up faith positions on the whole. douglas wilson contends that "every position is a faith position," and i think i've come to agree. here's an excerpt from nietzche's the antichrist:

faith is the elephant in nietzche's closet. (flickr: @gudi&cris)
"what is good? everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself."

nietzsche thinks that his observations of the world have led him to believe that "man is an end." neither of us can come to our conclusions using logic - i'll admit that for the both of us. 

while my faith position is on the existence and nature of God, nietzsche's is on the concept that the strength of man is the necessary transcendence of reality. sad day!

we pseudo-rationalists have a lot to explain to freud. his proposition that our conceptions of God have little or nothing to do with objective truth are echoing in my mind right now.

"it would be insolent to let one's own arbitrary will step into the breach, and, according to one's personal estimate, declare this or that part of the religious system to be less or more acceptable," he says with the apparent conviction that what he is doing is science and perhaps is not directly theological at all. freud makes me wonder how much of my experience was interpreted incorrectly due to my emotional needs.

these are enormous implications for anyone who holds a faith position, but especially for those not clinging to the biblical inerrancy raft. we are all subject to our perceptions, personal and collective. some would say they're all we have.

how can we know the truth? what we need is perspective. and we need to have "good" perspective on that perspective. we also need to have perspective on that good perspective on that perspective... catch my drift? we can know things more and less certainly, but it seems to me that to know something for certain we need transcendence.

i drew God trapped in the bible, then jonathan drew God trapped in our brains.

i can't prove it, but it seems to me like love is an entity - real, living, active and found lots of places. if love is truly a force that permeates the world and transcends its trappings, then it must have a source. in that case, perhaps we are wholly dependent on whatever ultimate being may exist. maybe we are right to say in desperation with the singer: "come pull me through."

the one where i admit i'm wrong

in essence
we humans are always trying to explain why the world is broken, why we suffer, why we can't account for all our experiences through our current establishment of natural laws. i read a torah, a few gospels and several epistolary letters to that effect. and i've read it in the faces of my close friends the essays of the great philosophers and the poetry of my literary accomplices.

out of nickels, can someone call Home for me?
my friend andrew says that this lowercase blog is about total depravity. i am also trying to make sense of the brokenness. i am drawing tentative conclusions. most likely, i'm wrong.

presenting the reader with my explanation of absolute truth is no longer the point of this blog. my aim is to raise questions. in essence, this is (hopefully) a documentation of my journey with Someone and toward Someone. absolute truth just might be a person.

that said...
i've realized that i can no longer defend my position using solely logic. at the center of things i'm hoping that God is, that He is enough. this hope is  somewhat supported in my experience. 

however, i'm also somewhat more than tentatively assuming gender, invisibility, transcendence of culture and time, omnipotence and omniscience. some of these descriptors are circumstantially provided for in my experience, while to say that about others would be a stretch. about such things, i have a tentative belief. i don't necessarily expect the reader to share these beliefs. 

i can't prove a lot of what i'm saying on here. i have an illogical hope. sometimes i make assumptions for discovery's sake, but in general i make them because i have needs: i need there to be a god and i need him or her to be objectively loving. i need that god to be transcendent, omnipotent and omniscient.

i need a god who sees and provides. however, i still want to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that reveals a more hostile reality and a god who doesn't meet my needs or perceived needs; even if that means there is no god at all. i don't want to be ignorant.

forgive me for the lack of separation. i want to address both hope and the search for truth. they're going to be muddled together in this blog because my in-process thoughts are sometimes not sorted correctly. please call me out when i'm mis-speaking.
let's keep this conversation going.

as ever,



is wonder...

let me ask: is wonder the most pure form of worship?
are we deceiving ourselves to think that we can find and appease God with logic?

i continue to seriously doubt that modern science is a sufficiently pure form of inquiry into the unknown. the scientific method is sound enough, but its application seems to me like it is riddled with hypocrisy.

people tend to conclude before they observe. is this inherent? can we really ask philosophical questions, and trust ourselves not to jump to emotionally convenient conclusions?

it seems to me that beyond the simplicity of staring in wonder, all sciences are sociologically based and physically limited. and then there's theology - all science is by necessity theologically oriented. the scientist's belief in a god or absence of one will influence his or her conclusion. maybe observation can be pure, but reason is inherently tainted.

the struggle to defend rationalism is a diseased and dying pursuit. so sorry, dear reader, but you can't be a rationalist. this is because you're human. we mortals have emotions and potentially erroneous prejudgements - we are the human error in our own cosmologies.

maybe on my own i will to trick myself into thinking i can be a rationalist. i can't be trusted. that's why i'm so glad that it's not me i'm trusting in to find truth; it's God. faith is my double-blind study of invisible things. the intervention of grace is not a theology based on human need, but rather a convenient reality - a floating parachute at mile 13 of our philosophical free-fall. i hope.

shakespeare accidentally left this out.. i had to sharpie it in.

p.s. ria is writing a wonderful song. you can hear it on the orange tree


on accomplishment

i usually walk 1-3 miles per day. on foot i go to school, walk between classes and then home. when i get there, andrew and i usually go for another walk together barefoot.

photo taken and edited by andrew

oftentimes on these walks, we don't aim to go anywhere. we simply stride and converse, letting our intellects and imaginations go free. we laugh at each others' jokes and stroke our chins at each others' seriousness. we take pictures.

we're not afraid of going in circles. we're not alarmed by repetition or discouraged by the people who avariciously speed past us in cars. they have places to be and things to accomplish. we're just walking, sun or rain. especially rain. upon arriving back at the apartment, we are never sad or frustrated that we didn't get anywhere, that we didn't acquire anything or get anything done.

the point was to talk and laugh - to be together.

when it comes to theology, i have this complex in which i always feel the need to conclude something, as if i'm only on this walk to get somewhere safe where i won't have to wonder anymore. i act as if i need to trade my time for resolution and my energy for certainty. so far, walking with God hasn't led me any of those places. maybe i'm forgetting the point...

perhaps arrival (home) is more than just a concept, but a promise that God makes good on in His timing. is it possible that we are spinning our cosmically undersized wheels, while our Creator simply wants to be with us? what if our footsteps are not even an incremental comparison to the living, breathing, infinite God next door? come walk with me. maybe we won't arrive anywhere. maybe that's not what we need.

as ever,




"maybe that's all family really is - a group of people that miss the same imaginary place." - zach braff


the God in my box

these are unstable thoughts. these are not steady conclusions or solid declarations, but rather inquiries into the nature of God and His relations with us.

i feel like i have been struggling for quite some time with the cliche dilemma of keeping God in a box.
and my box was this:

i'm still kind of in process with this, so i want to apologize to those who who would object that i haven't examined all the angles yet. i am looking at possibilities. i am keeping the conversation going. please don't think i am being flippant.

that said, there are a lot of things about my upbringing as a fundamentalist christian that i have been glancing at with a critical eye lately. i've started to wonder why i was so dead certain of so many things that many people rightly struggle with. the absolute inerrancy of the bible is one of those things.

maybe i look at my former belief in the inerrancy of the bible as a faux-faith alternative. i mean...
if God's a person, a living, breathing interacting person...
then anything we could read or write about him would be kind of irrelevant, wouldn't it? it wouldn't matter what we canonized; He would stand outside of it.

i realize that this is a profoundly dangerous thing to say if God truly has truly given us the protestant bible as the only manifestation of His commandments and instructions. however, that's not what i have faith in at all. i have a working faith in God as a person who truly interacts with people who are willing to get to know Him. so i can also develop a trust in Him to show where i'm wrong. if the bible is inerrant, i hope he'll make that clear to me. and soon. but let's digress for a moment:

ok, i'll admit it. i am a cookie fiend. i am at every moment grasping for that buttery, sugary, chocolate-chippity goodness to saturate my taste and fill my existence with happiness. my friend aubrianne brought over cookies yesterday and we ate and ate until our teeth were cavity-prone and our bellies were full of such wonderful delicacies as could only come from a friend's kitchen.

i believe in these cookies and very much love them. i believed contingently in their absolute goodness, and, now that i'm not sick from them, i think that was a good leap of faith. i trust their goodness from the look, smell, touch and taste. but i don't trust them to save my soul, and i don't put my belief in their inerrancy. in fact, i would seriously doubt that the person who gave me those cookies would encourage me to take them as a complete and prefect representation of her.

these cookies serve a purpose - filling our bellies and making us smile. and they do indeed accurately describe the person who made them: aubrianne is good and lovely and wants my roommates and i to be full. however, she is not buttery or sugary and she is certainly not chocolate-chippity! aubrianne is not a cookie and neither is God.

God, cerca 325 a.d.
(flickr @tharrin)

i think the point is that i chose not to trust in the cookies above the person who made them. i wouldn't want to believe things about the creation that the creator never intended. God may have intended the bible, but did He want us to use it in the manner we have been using it? without reservation i can say that the bible is a poor substitute for the Creator of the known and the unknown, the deep and the up-high, the large and the too-small, the is and the has-been and the will-be.

there's just too much God to limit Him to a book. even within the bible Paul is quoted as saying, "the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man..." (here's the quote in context) two other biblical instances of the presentation of this concept are linked in context here and here.

in light of all that, i'm not quite so sure why for so long i expected God to be defined by a collection of writings written by people, no matter how historically accurate they may be. maybe God is so much bigger, so much more amazing than all that...

i hope so. the biblical texts are insightful, informative and sometimes downright poetic, but they are not God. maybe they are not our only access to Him either; maybe, the word really did become flesh. these are just some things i've been thinking about.

as ever,


p.s. thanks to andrew for help with editing and research on this post.


maybe love...

dear readers,

i am heartbroken. i think that everyone should be once in a while. to deny that we are suffering is to force dishonesty on our souls. it's both un-natural and unendingly damaging. to deny that we are experiencing hope deferred is to deny hope; and hope is the only thing that makes us human.

it's here that i want to begin to sand against the grain, to be unconventional in a way that will get a lot of frowns and disagreeable comments: in our culture (as in many others), pain suffering and weakness are looked down on while indifference, and disaffected stoicism is championed as the norm. i'm choosing not to be that way. i would rather die.

i've come to see the celestial silence i'm so familiar with as an opportunity to hope in something i can't see and don't understand. the sickeningly wretched things that have happened in my life present me with an opportunity to turn to God. next, when He refuses to take the grief and the heart-wrenching pain away, i have a choice to hope that someday -any moment- He will.

becoming overcome with indifference is a mistake that i never want to repeat. as long as life goes on, there are still moments for God to intervene, there is still loneliness for God to quell and there is still emptiness for Him to fill. so every moment i want to hope.

as ever,



a preface to the mess that's left us godless

"let us face ourselves. we are hyperboreans," nietzsche hammered into his typewriter, reeling with the pitch and roll of revolutionary ferver and reeking from the whiskeyflask of irreverence precontemplate. to paraphrase:
'let's be honest. we're above all that.'
frederick nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

this is all-too-likely the hint that the reader might begin to close his mouth on as he begins to sink his teeth into one of the great philosopher's works entitled the antichrist. there is a tendency for philosophers of any experience to think that they're above the rest of humanity...

but let's use caution; let's not overestimate our intellects. its true that we have historical perspective, we have innovation and we have more to build on. to borrow from isaac newton, we are aloft the shoulders of giants. now, let's not get carried away by them.

i'm not afraid to read a great man who might've been wrong, because i believe that the truth is not something that can be cornered by persuasive terms or accurate presentation (that is to say, it actually exists, no matter who may contradict it and in what manner). however, i also believe that presumptions, predilections and preconditions to be downright dangerous if absorbed without conscious acknowledgement. so right here at the beginning, i want to make to make my contradictory claim:

let us face ourselves. we are
we need a God.

(more nietzsche to come)

- joel

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read local. its good for your head

sometimes, when i'm not writing, i'm reading things that friends and strangers write. i generally find it easier to trust writers that i know, and they usually like to have people take a look at their stuff and comment on it. besides, if you read local, you'll get to know your readers better. its a win-win, amigos!

with that in mind, i would like to introduce y'all (pronounced "you guys") to some incredible and fascinating bloggers that i know. be a dear and check out the list below. i don't always agree with, but pretty consistently appreciate the writers listed below, and i hope you will too.

the unfinished blog
featured on this half-baked, undone and in-process weblog is a conglomeration of original poetry, visual art, random insights and pictures of the number forty-seven. 23-year-old andrew assumes the role of artist, writer and photographer while intermittently sounding off on subjects like programming, greek and the importance of not wearing shoes. classy and strange.

the salty flashlight
"i'm just traveling through," nathan asserts on the 'about me' section of the salty flashlight. he pauses to leave bite-sized offerings of encouragement and insight from a biblical perspective. he and his collaborators never cease to make me think, long after i've finished their posts.

micah onfire
brother micah's relatively new venture into blogging has been very intriguing thus far. his posts deal with the events of his day-to-day, like a trip to portland a worship night with family and friends, in the context of his relationship with God. what i like most about micah onfire is that its raw and unassuming, a simple blog for the everyday reader.

aubrianne's blog features a smatterish of scatterish posts that are both entertaining and lengthly. she thinks deeply into each subject and idea, digging the muck, the filth and the buried treasure up for readers to see. aubrianne's an honest abe with a nervous tick for blogging; she's down in it for the world to see, and some great writing results.

borrowing poetry
writers who lend words to melody, the creator and maintainer of the borrowing poetry blog, include gerard manly hopkins, mary oliver and shel silverstein. more importantly, however, her blog features page after page of some of the most beautifully engaging poetry that i've ever encountered. and speaking of, this poem is absolutely phenomenal.

well, i hope you check out a few of these fine writers (artists) when you get a chance. reading them, i think you'll find that noncompetitive expression is often more strikingly beautiful than the commercialized and edited fare of the papers, mags and news sites. i am blessed to be in the company of such incredible instigators of literature, and now (hopefully) you are too.

as ever,


this unrelated photo was taken by andrew and edited by him on gimp


reflections on tolstoy

the gist
in philosophy we are reading parts of tolstoy's confession. if you haven't read it, the gist is that this famous author named leo tolstoy is describing how he came to success in every way, and then realized how life is meaningless (listen leo, i could told ya that years ago).

he wants to take comfort in his family, but he realizes that because his family are all human beings, they are caught in the same meaningless scenario called life. he wonders if he should continue to nurture them and act as if life is meaningful in and of itself, or if he should expose them to his realization of emptiness.

of his family, tolstoy says "every step in cognition leads them up to this truth. and the truth is death."

he also tries to take shelter in his accomplishment as a writer (artist), but he realizes its emptiness as well. tolstoy sees art as a mirror of life, and life as an empty venture. "it was clear to me that art was an adornment of life, a decoy of life... how, then could i entrap others?" he laments.

"i could no longer console myself with what is saw in the mirror, namely, that my situation was stupid and desperate." sounding pretty human there, amigo.

tolstoy's dilemna
so he starts asking questions:
"'what is the meaning of life?'"
"'what will come of my life?'"
"'why does everything which exists exist, and why do i exist?'"

tolstoy then concludes that the science he studies will not answer these questions in a satisfactory manner. "... i understood that it was not right for me to look for an answer to my question in rational knowledge, and that the answer given by rational knowledge was only an indication that the answer might be got if the question were differently put..."

so he puts his questions differently and examines them in the light of the infinite, ignoring for those purposes the things he had come to know about science. "thus, outside the rational knowledge... i was inevitably led to recognize that all living humanity had a certain other rational knowledge, faith, which made it possible to live."

in essence, this philosopher settles on blind faith coupled with the ignorance of reality. he throws himself at the the closest religion at hand and becomes a more or less devout christian. his idea of science doesn't support his belief, but then again science had already made the world a meaningless location and vocation for tolstoy. he wanted to again believe something so that his life would no longer be meaningless.

tolstoy essentially concludes that he would rather be ignorant about reality than have to face its potential meaninglessness. our friend cypher from the matrix is having a similar dilemna in the video below.

my conclusions?
i would go back to science. don't close the door on observation so quickly as to conclude that everything is meaningless. science and art in themselves just reflect the finite world, which many of us have already "discovered" doesn't hold any answers directly.

however, the finite world also systematically and beautifully speaks something more than just the futility and hopelessness that tolstoy discovered. the world, as expressed by science and art seems to be alluding to both a creation and a creator. as an ancient hebrew poet once said, "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."

i would challenge anyone who disagrees to look and listen with an open mind. these findings are not only mine, and they are not only the mob(err, church)'s. i think you'll find that there's really something to them.

good questions, bad solutions. why is it there? why am i here? what does it all mean? tolstoy has some qood questions, but he is trapped by his previous assumptions that the world is only the world, and is thus not open to the possibility that it might mean something after all.

we can start to discover purpose in art, in science, and in the people around us because nature, human and otherwise, is the paramount witness to the existence of a living God.

as ever,

picture by andrew


life after love

i sit in lectures, cafeterias and coffee shops in which apathy is the prevailing tone. and i can hear the hurt behind so many cool and disaffected voices as the people get up to leave. there is a serious lack of purpose at this campus.

so this is the liberty we've come to know - that nothing could possibly matter less than our actions, inactions and empty rhetoric; that we are pathetically helpless in our quest for meaning, that we are weak and incapable in our empty strivings, and that we are small and flailingly ineffectual when put in perspective.

we've all been through a bad break-up. we've all been addicted or lonely, used-up or forgotten, broken and/or phony. hard situations have provided the context for even harder decisions. sometimes it is only natural to accept defeat. our failures can lead us to question why we tried so hard - to succeed, to prevail, to do the right thing - in the first place.

the mystery is not why people give up when faced with heart-crushing circumstances. on the contrary, the wonder is that we're still alive.

we are told by friends that things will be fine, that we're just having a hard time and that (chin up!) this will all blow over soon. deep down, we all know that blind optimism is a scam. worse than the original depression, a false promise for the future can destroy what remaining sense of security and well-wishing we still harbored within us. an old jewish proverb says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick."

please don't listen to that trash. hold out for something more reliable, for Someone who really knows the future. i will submit that optimism is a fool's errand and hope is his calling. maybe God has a purpose for people, and He hasn't completely abandoned us to our circumstances.

why? i can't tell you for certain. but listen, and maybe you'll connect with something greater as well. maybe hope really doesn't disappoint. take care what you wish for, and even more what you hope in. as ever,



my aim

chatting with a christian leader today, i had thoughts about God that i haven't had in a while. i got a chance to redefine what it is i'm looking for whilst tossing the status quo out the window and off the balcony. simply put, what i want is living water.

i have all these needs, wants, thoughts and theological constructions (thoughts about God) pervading my consciousness many times during the day. i have life mechanics, too - work and school. its easy for me to forget what my real search is.

its high time today for me to take a hard look at the things that matter - the search for meaning, the pursuit of truth, the realization of real love and the best context for relationship.
i want in every way to grasp for understanding, to seek out wisdom, to treasure and build relationship, to make my home with the invisible God.

one interesting thing that i read today was paul's address to the athenians. maybe its just because i'm reading the socratic dialogues (greek philosophical dialogues ~460 years before paul's speech), but the language in it really seems to resonate with something deep in me. i want to know truth, and i want to experience the intangible.

and so, that's what i want to do - in my thoughts, in my actions, in my conversations and in this blog. please join in. i want to hear your thoughts, your contributions, your encouragements and your condemnations. let's get humble, honest and open to being wrong. whatever we do, let's keep this conversation going.
as ever,


p.s. "it is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings" - ancient jewish proverb


from behind the missing glass

raving mad man, biking up and down the street and screaming about the bus.

and i'm sitting in a coffee shop, behind a window with a conspicuously missing pane, reading plato and thinking how raving lunacy is also a group thing.

the validity of a culture is directly threatened by those within it who are willing to treat the life and death of their neighbors like a political issue.

children behind the wire in the auschwitz death camp (1941 - 1945) [holocaustresearchproject.org]


thoughts from the concrete steps

last night i was sitting on the staircase thinking about how i would have virtually no knowledge of how to build it, and no ambition to see it built, had there not come someone before me who both knew how, and deemed it important. 

i know so very few things, but kind of piggy-back on the body of knowledge and accomplishment that has been accumulated by both my predecessors and contemporaries.

when it comes down to it, few of us know enough to get by without this conglomeration of past and present thinkings and doings, and no single one of us could rebuild if we suddenly lost all information and infrastructure.

kind of pathetic, isn't it? we build our lego houses on the skyscrapers of those who went before us. our every action is solely dependent on that ever-expanding collection of knowledge that is mostly the product of shaper minds, of stronger and more determinate souls.

well, i hope this doesn't lastingly depress anyone. look at the brightside! we have a morning full of quasi-meaningful, hyper-caffeinated activities to look to, come sunrise.
as ever,


p.s. this post by andrew is really intriguing